eileen_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title Schachmeister
Synopsis Richard attempts to negotiate.
Date June 10, 2018

Yamagato Park, Eileen's Apartment

Two cups of black tea steep on a glass coffee table overlooking the New York City Safe Zone. Nighttime lights twinkle like fireflies in the dark, interspersed and floating between shadows and the vague shapes that cast them. Years ago, the sound of traffic would float all the way up to an apartment like this one, but the streets haven’t seen the sort of congestion that New York used to be known for since—

Better not to think of it.

Eileen isn’t. Her attention is fixated on the man sitting on the sofa across from her, even though her body language appears relaxed, almost languid in the way she’s draped herself over the armchair on the other side of the coffee table.

If Yamagato Park has a rule about smoking indoors, she’s chosen to ignore it. A lit cigarette dangles between two knuckles on her dominant hand. The other is lax and loose. She wears her hair twisted back into a loose, unkempt bun at the nape of her pale neck as it dries.

Richard can tell that the last bath she took was shortly before his arrival because her curls are still damp, and he can smell the moisture in the air, undercut with the unmistakable scent of baby powder and some sort of hand lotion that reminds him of spring.

It’s probably a safe assumption that this isn’t the assassination attempt he’d feared. Her silk bathrobe, embroidered in jasmine flowers and silvery little songbirds, covers a sheer slip she probably wears to bed. There’s nowhere for the Fourth Horseman to conceal a knife, or a pistol. He knows the tea isn’t poisoned because she sourced both cups from the same tin of loose leaves.

Her feet are bare. She looks tired.

Of course, Richard Ray might not be the only one that’s concerned about assassination attempts here.

He arrived in a pinstripe suit and genuine fedora, classic in style and appearance; the sort of suit that once upon a time was standard issue for agents of The Company, before fashions moved on, as they do. He’s also carrying a heavy metal briefcase with a Raytech logo on the side.

He’s probably also unarmed, because Yamagato’s security is on high alert since the incident.

“Hello, Eileen,” he offers as he eases himself down to the couch, setting the briefcase to one side of himself and leaning back, hands folding over his chest. He doesn’t pick up the tea just yet, hazel eyes shadowed with dark bags that suggest a lack of sleep. She isn’t the only one that’s tired.

A long moment passes as he just looks at her, before asking simply, “What do you want?”

“A drink,” Eileen answers. “Something bitter and herbal that burns all the way down. More than four or five hours of sleep at a stretch. Gabriel.”

Something about her tone suggests that those items are only the ones at the very top of her list. She takes a drag from her cigarette and runs her tongue over the front of her teeth, letting the smoke leak back out again from her small, flared nostrils.

Her head tilts, so slight that the movement might be missed, imperceptible, if Richard wasn’t already so on edge.

“To know what’s in that briefcase.”

“I recommend chartreuse,” Richard replies blandly, “A few tablespoons of NyQuil, and you’re out of luck on the last one, I haven’t seen him for years. Let me know if you do, though, I owe him a beer.”

He brings one hand up, fingers raking back through his hair. “I’m not here to play games, Eileen. I’m really tired of games,” he says, the ghost of a smile briefly touching his lips as he watches blue eyes for a moment.

“You and your friends came through the Looking Glass, you set up your little settlement in the northwest… it’s quite nice, really,” he admits, “Nice people, a good location, you’ve got a good settlement going up there. Under other circumstances I’d be happy to work out a deal for some of our infrastructural advances. So what I don’t understand…”

Hands drop down to his knees, and he leans forward slowly, “…is why you left all that behind to come here and crawl up my ass.”

It’s a lot of information for Eileen to process in very few words.

She has to weigh what Richard appears to know against what she thinks he doesn’t before she can even consider a response, and that takes time.

The silence is, at least, comfortable. There’s no narrowing of her eyes to slits or smiles that show teeth. She continues to let her attention rest on Richard without applying any pressure. Her presence remains guarded but soft, in the way that old fabric is soft: worn, and a little frayed at the edges.

When she does speak, it’s in a quiet voice absent of sarcasm or judgement. “I can’t pretend to know what you’re talking about,” she claims, “but I imagine whatever difficulties you’re up against aren’t directly your fault.”

She leans forward to tap ash into the designated tray. “That’s always the story with you, isn’t it, Cardinal? Someone else creates a problem, and then you or someone close to you exacerbates it because you’re too preoccupied with the whats and the whys and the wheres that you forget to take all the whos into account.”

The tip of her cigarette smolders brightly. “Everything associated with the Looking Glass Project should be destroyed and forgotten— or made to be forgot. I think you know that, too, in your heart. Because it’s a good heart. But you won’t. Because you’re you.”

Richard considers her for a long moment, and then he breathes out a sigh, leaning back in the sofa and rubbing over his face with one hand. “If you’re just going to sit there and observe my myriad personality flaws, you can stop, since that’s what I have scotch whiskey for,” he quips, tone dry as he speaks.

The other hand rests on the top of the briefcase as he looks back to her, noting in a brittle tone, “I might observe that you seem awfully eager to insert yourself into a narrative you seem to be convinced is inevitable, when the end of that narrative is ‘and then they died horribly’. I’m rather tired of that particular narrative, honestly, I’d like to move on to something else.”

He snorts, then, “I have no interest in renewing Michelle’s work. I want answers about my parents, yes. I want answers about where I came from. So does Des. I want answers about where the sons of bitches working on rebuilding the machine are, so I can shoot them in the head, especially since I’m laying heavy odds it’s that bitch Erica Kravid, who needs to have been dancing on the end of a rope several years ago by this point.”

“And if you’re causing me and my people hell because you think that’s what we’re doing, you’re sadly fucking mistaken. I have enough problems in our superstring, thank you very much, I don’t have the time to be poking around on other ones.”

The name Erica Kravid renews tension in Eileen’s shoulders. That someone other than Richard has interest in the Looking Glass Project is a new piece of information to the Englishwoman, carefully catalogued and filed away for closer examination at a later time and date.

“You and Odessa should both be asking yourselves what price that information is worth,” she says. “Your mother is dead, and there’s no going back to wherever you came from. For either of us.”

Cigarette paper blackens, peels away, crackling in the absence of other sounds. Eileen uncrosses her legs, bringing the rustle of silk on skin to the forefront. Richard can even hear the involuntary sigh drawn from her lungs as she changes positions and places both her feet on the unyielding marble floor of her apartment.

“I hate that a difference in ideologies has put us on opposing sides of the same argument.” She reaches up and rubs the edge of her thumb under her mouth. “We both want the same thing. The only difference is what I’m willing to sacrifice, versus what you won’t.”

“I like to think that I’m a very reasonable man, Eileen,” says Richard, fingers drumming lightly over the metal lid of the briefcase as he regards her steadily, “Until I’m provoked to very unreasonable actions. I have an office that you could’ve made an appointment at. I was at Sedro-Wooley. At any point…”

He leans forward slightly, “…did it occur to you to come talk to me, to maybe figure out some kind of compromise, or did you decide to just skip right to the provoking part? What I’m not willing to sacrifice are the lives of my people. Everything else is negotiable.”

His brow furrows darkly, “We wouldn’t be on opposite sides, maybe, if you’d just fucking come to talk.”

Eileen’s hand drops back down and idles against the inside of her thigh. She either isn’t concerned about the cigarette’s proximity to her bare skin, or it hasn’t occurred to her. “My dziadzio fancied himself a reasonable man, too,” she says. “So did Arthur Petrelli. The figureheads of Humanis First. Everyone who danced at the end of a rope, as you so delicately put it.”

The cups of tea on the coffee table, untouched, have rapidly begun to cool. Steam tapers off, settles on the surface of the amber-coloured liquid, eventually dissipates entirely.

“No one thinks they’re the villain, you know. Especially not the worst of us.” And now Eileen does smile. It’s tentative, rueful. It takes one to know one, it says. Her eyes gleam a little brighter, a little bluer. Richard’s blood feels like it begins to thicken in his veins, but that’s all.

No pain.

“Tell me: Did talking to Arthur Petrelli accomplish anything when you tried it?”

At that, Richard’s eyes narrow slightly. “So I’m Petrelli, now, am I? I’m not aware of any plans to take over the world, or create an army of slavishly loyal minions with artificial abilities…”

“Our most ambitious project right now involves farming,” he says, his fingers splaying over the surface of the briefcase, “So if I’m such a monster, tell me, Eileen. I’m here. You’re here. We’re unarmed.” Are they? “We’re sitting, we’re talking. Tell me why I’m this monster that needs to be destroyed. I’m listening.”

That briefcase is beginning to make Eileen feel very anxious.

“When you play chess,” she says, voice even quieter than it was a few moments ago, almost subdued in its volume and the placating posture that accompanies it, “the pieces aren’t made of wood, or stone. They’re other people’s flesh, other people’s blood and bone. When you make a mistake, or when you sacrifice a pawn for a better position on the board, their lives are destroyed— or they’re lost.”

“”Nobody knows that better than I do, Eileen,” replies Richard, a single brow arching upwards, “I was never the man playing the board, either. I was just the King. You still haven’t answered my question.”

“Stop dithering. Stop playing games. Just fucking talk to me as a person, for once. Please.”

“I am.”

Eileen’s cigarette has withered all the way down to the filter. She snuffs it out in the ash tray out of habit rather than necessity, and abandons the crumpled butt with the rest. “If Kravid is attempting to do what you claim, I’ll lend you my support.”

Emphasis on lend. Everything that’s borrowed, by definition, has to be returned.

“You can take it, or not. Until Looking Glass is dismantled or destroyed, I’ll stay my hand. Change my mind.”

“It’s a logical impossibility for me to convince you that I don’t have something,” says Richard, a heavy sigh rising up his throat and spilling past his lips, “I don’t have my mother’s damn machine, I don’t know how it was built, and I don’t have any interest in rebuilding it.”

Fingers slide along the briefcase, curling to the handle and lifting it up to hang by his side, as he moves to rise to his feet.

“You’re aiming your guns at the wrong fucking person. Figure out who your enemy really is, because I really don’t want to go through this stupid fucking narrative again.”

As Richard rises, Eileen does not move to follow, not to pursue, not to show him to the door. Exhaustion keeps her stationary.

“I know my enemy,” she says. “I have seen my enemy. I stood by and watched as it destroyed everything I loved and worked to build because it tricked me into believing it wasn’t a threat— that if I did as I was told and just trusted that it had my best interests in mind, everything would turn out, just so.”

There’s more to say, details glossed over or left purposely obscured. She tries, then, to elaborate, but the sound that croaks out of her mouth makes her stop short. Her hand goes to her heart, and she lets out a shaky breath that takes her by surprise, because she closes her eyes.

When she opens them again, they are marginally wetter than they were before.

“My enemy,” she murmurs, voice heavier than her small mouth can hold, “is your way of thinking. I’m sorry this conversation didn’t work out the way either of us hoped, Richard. Sincerely.

“I came here willing to listen. To talk. To deal, to compromise, to do whatever I needed to…” Richard looks at her there in her chair, “…and you wouldn’t even give me that much. All you did was denounce me as a villain without any specifics, and tell me you want me dead because of something I’m not even doing.”

His free hand points in her direction, “If I have an enemy, it’s that way of thinking. That’s the same thing Volken did. He assumed everyone was going to be as bad as he thought so he planned to kill all of them.”

“How are you different?”

You’re not, says a voice that Richard cannot hear, but emphasizes his point just the same. Eileen looks past him, to a shadow perched on the ledge outside the living room window. A susurrus of feathers. Outstretched wings.

“Be quiet,” Eileen says, not to Richard.

He’s within your reach, the voice insists, unflagging. This is what you wanted, little bird.

Her hands form fists in her lap. “I don’t think that I am,” she admits, and this time it’s clear who she’s addressing as her eyes fall on Richard once more, “not in the ways that matter. You should go.”

“Funny,” Richard says, a single brow lifting at the woman’s words, “I thought that villains didn’t know that they were, Eileen.”

He watches her for a long moment and then turns, reaching out for the door. He pauses, glancing back over his shoulder, “I’ll be briefing Yamagato Security as to your identity immediately after this. Your little friends decided to attack their shipment, so I doubt they’re going to be thrilled. You should probably go too.” He turns back, pulling the door open, briefcase in his other hand.

Fly away, little bird.”

Every instinct Eileen possesses urges her to attack. Her heart skips faster, fury roils in her blood and pulls tendons taut. The vigor she’d been lacking surges up, filling her limbs with restless energy like a cat presented with a small, wounded animal.

It would be easy.

More importantly: It would feel good.

“Please remember this when the time comes,” she says, unmoving.

Whatever this is.

Abschied, Schachmeister.

There are no more words from Richard as he closes the door behind him, a breath escaping him that he was barely aware of holding. His eyes closed as he gathers himself, releasing all the tension that was building during that conversation, and walks away down the hall.

It’s a courtesy. He stops in a common room to delay his arrival at the offices mentioned, setting the briefcase on a table and opening it to take out his dinner, packed carefully away.

She’ll have time to decide what she wants to do, at least.

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